The dynamic capital city of Germany, Berlin, has been touted as the new ‘Paris of the 19th century’ and is often voted the most fun city in the world. Berlin has survived being ripped apart and stitched back together, leaving a rich tapestry of history to explore. Sprawling across a flat terrain, Berlin is a continental hub of culture, politics, media and science, overflowing with cheap beer and artists, and boasts a liberal sprinkling of pubs, museums, theaters and delicious restaurants. Berlin is more spacious than other European capital cities and comprises twelve districts. The hottest districts in Berlin are currently Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg, and Prenzlauer Berg.
Why not escape from the bustling centre of Berlin to the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, in what was previously known as West Berlin; the poster child of the West’s fight against communism. This district is one of the few remaining areas that still epitomises the opulent grandeur of the Hohenzollern clan that ruled this region between 1415 and 1918. Charlottenburg has always been an affluent area, and has successfully maintained this wealth despite experiencing war and economic downturn. For a magical experience, head to the Prussian palace of Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace) for the day. You can get there by bus – the journey provides a pleasant ride as you exit the mayhem of Mitte and circle the Berlin Victory Column (Siegessäule) in the park at Tiergarten. You will gaze in awe at the palace (the largest palace in Berlin) as you approach the entrance across a cobbled courtyard, surrounded by geometric gardens and woodland.
Schloss Charlottenburg was commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, the wife of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg, and it was constructed at the end of the 17th century in 1697. Its name is actually in her honour – it was renamed from Lietzenburg to Charlottenburg after her death in 1705. Sophie Charlotte was a devoted patron of the arts and sciences and this is reflected in the décor of the palace and the design of the gardens. It was greatly improved and embellished in the 18th century, with the addition of a pavilion, Mausoleum and a theater. Internally, the palace embodies both exotic baroque and rococo styles and is surrounded by verdant woodland and French baroque style geometric gardens. Further to substantial damage suffered during the Second World War, it has been elegantly restored to its former glory. If you pay close attention to the gilded female figure perched atop the central dome of the palace, you might notice her move – her outstretched cape allows her to function as a weather vane.
The richly faceted gardens at Schloss, Charlottenburg are a world renowned example of garden style and are as grand as the inside of the palace. They can be accessed any day of the week, are free to enter and it is advisable to get there early to avoid the crowds. You can cross the carefully manicured lawns and admire the multitude of majestic flower beds and eye-catching statues as Sophie-Charlotte must have done hundreds of years ago. Drink in the beauty of nature while circumnavigating shaded walkways, elegant avenues and mysterious moats. You can also wander freely through the woodland to gaze at the River Spree as it curves around the perimeter of the park. Across from the peaceful carp pond is a neoclassical style Mausoleum, where several royals (such as Kaiser Wilhelm I and his wife) are entombed in ornate marble sarcophagi. There are numerous opportunities for beautiful reflective photographs to be taken across the pond. An escape to the 300-year old gardens of Schloss Charlottenburg is not to be forgotten!
The German temperament is typical of a country that experiences long, gray winters; their exterior is cloaked in a thick winter jacket; penetrating it can be challenging. However, Germans are friendlier than they first appear; once you strike up conversation you will easily find others who are happy to converse. Non-Germans can easily get by with a minimal amount of German vocabulary. Unless you are looking for a job, the language barrier is not a problem as Germans love to practice their English. As you wander about the gardens at Schloss, Charlottenburg you will find many a willing tourist to discuss the magic and wonder of these gardens.